How to Manage the Stress of Starting and Running Your Own Business

Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington

8 min. read

Updated October 25, 2023

Getting your business off the ground and keeping it going comes with many challenges.

You’re balancing everything from coming up with the right business name, developing your marketing plans, and figuring out how to maintain customer satisfaction.

But throughout your career as an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to prioritize healthy stress management. By tackling that part of your well-being, you’re increasing the chances of being able to thrive under pressure. Here are some principles and tips to keep in mind.

Don’t go it alone

Perhaps you’re a fiercely independent person and want to handle as many aspects of your business as possible without help. After all, that allows for exerting the greatest amount of control over its operations.

Think of Olympic athletes and how they have a team of coaches, sports medicine experts, dietitians, massage therapists and other specialists around them as they strive to achieve their goals of winning medals. When they win, those athletic superstars often thank the members of their support team and mention those people as being instrumental to their success.

If you have people around you to lend a hand with your business goals, your overall stress levels will be lower. Think specifically about having people on your team to assist with various aspects of the business. An accountant can handle tax questions, a lawyer can weigh in with legal advice, and an IT specialist can keep your computer systems running smoothly.

A business mentor is another great option. SCORE is a great place to get paired with a mentor that will match your needs and goals. You can also listen to podcasts about entrepreneurs, which is a great activity for when you’re driving or spending time at home.

Reading books from other startup founders can help too, especially brutally-honest ones like “Lost and Founder” by Rand Fishkin.

In the early stages of starting a business, many entrepreneurs are too concerned with how old they are and what they haven’t yet achieved compared to other business leaders. That constant comparison game can cause your stress levels to ramp up.

A recent MIT study examined 2.7 million people who founded companies and hired at least one person. They discovered the average age of entrepreneurs associated with the highest-growth businesses was 45.

Newspapers and magazine covers often profile successful entrepreneurs who are in their 20s, but this study suggests those people are outliers and not the norm. Instead of viewing your age as a detrimental factor, think of it as one of the indicators of wisdom and experience that you can apply to your business.

Schedule your downtime as if it were an important meeting

In the entrepreneurial world, as well as in the workforce at large, relaxation seems to fall by the wayside.

Rather than seeing their downtime as something valuable, people in the working world let it get taken up by company meetings, networking events, projects, and more. It can be tough to even go out to dinner or a movie without checking your phone, and the urge to be always connected is strong.

If that happens too often, you’ll get caught in a vicious cycle that quickly makes you feel burned out. Take a proactive approach and treat your non-work time as events on your calendar or entered into your phone as reminders.

When you see them listed in such a formal way, you’ll be more likely to consider them just as important than your business duties. Then make sure you stick to it.

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Participate in emotional monitoring

There’s one emotion with which entrepreneurs are especially familiar, and it’s fear of failure. Contrary to what may seem logical, being fearful of that can be both helpful and harmful, depending on the specifics.

For example, researchers found when the source of the fear of failure was rooted in a financial issue, such as having trouble securing necessary funding, entrepreneurs were more likely than not to exercise persistence.

It’s crucial to be aware that your emotions can have substantial effects on your thoughts and actions. In a low-mood state, you may only notice the negative aspects of challenges and feel certain what you’re trying to achieve can’t happen.

If you take a step back and realize your emotions are causing those beliefs to manifest, and not your business at large or a project related to it, you’ll be able to stress less and have a broader perspective. Being able to look at things logically will reduce your anxiety when things go wrong.

In short, the concept of emotional monitoring involves being aware of how emotions can intrude on your thoughts and behaviors. Once you understand that, you’ll be more able to gauge situations accurately and know what’s going on in your mind may be impacting your perceptions.

Consider confiding in a friend to talk about how you feel whenever your emotions get too intense and otherwise stressful. That person may be able to help you tap into your feelings and evaluate them before taking drastic actions related to your business or other aspects of your life. You can also read some books on mindfulness, and learn how to be aware of your surroundings instead of just living in your own head.

Avoid procrastinating about things that could cause stress later

If you’re on a tight budget and pressed for time, it’s tempting to delay handling things that aren’t causing problems now, but might later. You might figure there’s a chance the issues won’t escalate, and then you’ll have spent money for no reason.

Quincy Compressor creatively highlighted that situation with their “Avoid the Nightmares” video about how if air compressors at a manufacturing plant malfunctioned, that would severely compromise business operations. In the video, the person who oversees the plant stresses about what could happen if his business got derailed due to poorly maintained equipment. It’s a situation that’s all too familiar to someone who owns their own business.

Worrying about what might go wrong if things break won’t help anything. Regardless of the kind of business you have, it’s ideal to emphasize preventive maintenance.

Instead of viewing it as unnecessary spending, think about it in terms of using your money wisely to cut down on the likelihood of issues that are costlier than maintenance appointments. At the very least, you’ll sleep better.

Invest in a wearable stress tracker

Besides the impact stress can have on your emotions, it causes bodily changes, too. When your stress levels rise, you may notice your pulse quickens and it becomes harder to take a deep breath. Your palms might sweat, too.

You can wear a stress tracker on your wrist to detect some of those physical changes in your body and urge you to do stress management techniques with built-in apps. By using one of those every day, you could become more aware of your stress triggers and find you’re able to keep your anxiety levels from getting out of control.

Attend a local meetup of fellow entrepreneurs

Do you hesitate to tell others what you’re going through because it seems the obstacles encountered in your business are unique to you? They’re almost certainly not, but it’s hard to know that if you don’t interact with other entrepreneurs on a regular basis.

Do some research to see if there’s an organization you can join comprised of people who are at various stages of their entrepreneurial careers. Getting acquainted with that group and discussing what you’re facing may not seem easy at first.

But, once you start, you’re more likely to hear people respond with “Me, too!” while patting you on the shoulder in solidarity, instead of “Wow, that sounds difficult, but I’ve never dealt with that before.”

Knowing you’re not alone and that others have similar struggles and triumphs reduces your stress by giving you an outlet to share things about your business as it progresses.

Get involved in a goal-oriented activity

Many suggestions about stress management suggest engaging in physical exercise, and that’s undoubtedly a worthwhile strategy. Concerning other activities, choose options that let you make something and gradually accomplish a goal.

That might mean greening your thumb as a gardener or learning a musical instrument. Baking is another excellent choice.

A 2015 study by a cake company found one out of every three individuals polled felt more stressed at the time of the survey compared to five years prior. Notably, 80 percent of those respondents said baking lowered their stress. Experts say baking gives people a sense of pride as they complete steps of recipes. Also, because cooking usually requires precise measurements and proper methods of preparation, it focuses the mind.  

Make sure whatever you do is relaxing and goal oriented, but has nothing to do with your work. For example, if you already own a bakery, baking for “fun” might end up seeming like work!

Approach stress management as a daily practice

There are some things you do every day without fail, such as brushing your teeth and combing your hair. Aim to fit stress management into your routine in the same way. Even if you’re not feeling stressed, meditation or yoga could get you in an excellent frame of mind for what lies ahead.

No matter which of the pointers above you decide to try, make them ongoing habits instead of things you only depend upon to find your way out of a tight spot. Then, you can stress less and achieve more—within your business and in other realms of life.

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Content Author: Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington is an entrepreneur, writer, and blogger specializing in small business.